Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It is inaccurate to pray this collect given the current divisions in the Anglican Communion. For several years now, the Communion has manifested anything but unity.
In consternation over the Episcopal Church’s support of LGBT Christians, a majority of the Communion has anathematized The Episcopal Church (TEC). The Archbishop of Canterbury has removed all TEC members from interim bodies of the Anglican Consultative Council, and reportedly has asked Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori not to attend the next primates meeting. He would not even allow her to wear her miter when she preached at London’s Southwark Cathedral on June 13th.
We should amend the collect thus:
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church may cease its bickering and gather together in unity by your Holy Spirit so that we may show forth your power among all peoples to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God told Jeremiah: “"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you.”
Isaiah reported of himself: "The Lord called me before my birth. From within the womb he called me by my name...He said to me, `You are my servant'..." (Isaiah 49:1, 3)
Prophets are not the only ones who can make this claim: so might you and I, in the words of Psalm 139: 13-14: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”
That’s not just for straight people anymore either; nor just for white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. God has fearfully and wonderfully made every one of us even while we were in our mothers’ wombs.
When God appointed him a prophet, Jeremiah said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy."
His reluctance I understand. In 1974, I called at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and said, “My husband and I are a racially integrated gay couple from middle Georgia and we would like to be put in touch with other gay Episcopalians while we are at UC Berkeley this summer. Several people passed the phone to others for me to repeat my request.
Their giggles and tittering, only slightly muffled, brought me clearly up against God’s call to do something about it. “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak church talk, for I am only a quean.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a quean”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you. .. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
I did not go alone. I took out ads in The Episcopalian and in the national gay newspaper The Advocate announcing Integrity as a new organization for lesbian and gay Episcopalians.
What do heterosexuals think of when they read?:
In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge; *
let me never be ashamed.
Has anyone ever tried to shame them merely for being heterosexuals?
This psalm, as does Jeremiah, and as does Psalm 139, encourages those of us who face persecution to take refuge in God, certain that we are God’s creation from the beginning:
I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother's womb you have been my strength; *
my praise shall be always of you.
If you have never been anathematized, you have blood kin who have. We have all partaken of Christ’s blood. That’s not just mumbo jumbo. That’s our common birthright. In the Eucharist we are made one not only with Christ, but with one another. When we understand this transformation, we can never rightly shut out as strangers those whom others anathematize. We are bound to them through the body and blood of Jesus.
Deliver us, O God, from the hand of the wicked, *
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor
Say that when you drive your nice car to spend a day ministering with, not to, the homeless. Say that when you use your fine computer to write a letter seeking justice and proper care for refugees or undocumented citizens.
These are not tasks we do for strangers; these are ways we share blood kinship.
If my reading of Psalm 71 is too bloody for you, how will you bear Saints’ vision of our approach to heaven itself, when we come “to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”?
Saint’s vision is full of awe at powerful actions of judgment, explicitly surpassing the terrifying sights that Moses experienced. In Saint’s vision we “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God.” God tells us, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”
Yet Saint stresses that through Christ “we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
It sounds like Jesus has run up against the bureaucrats of Lambeth Palace, much as Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori did. Rather than welcome her and the very good news that she preached to a huge crowd, the archbishop stressed that she should not wear her miter, but just tote it under her arm. She obeyed. He looked foolish. She spoke gospel truth. Read her sermon here
When her male predecessor Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold preached at the same cathedral, he wore his miter and no objection was made: he is a male. The Church of England does not yet allow females to be bishops, so she had to tuck her miter under her arm. See a full report with pictures of both Presiding Bishops and their miters at Episcopal Café
When Jesus healed the crippled woman, the ecclesiastical bureaucrats noticeed only that he did it on the Sabbath. The healing was of no importance to them.
Jesus reminded them that even they give water to their animals on the Sabbath! But Jesus missed their point: the letter of the law is perfect, and nothing else will be tolerated.
I rejoice that Jesus will be my judge, not some church bureaucrats. Jesus has the property always to be merciful. Jesus knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Jesus loves an old quean like me. Indeed, Jesus loves absolutely everybody!